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Coastal Sewer Plans Threaten Coast

Date : Thu, 11 Apr 2013 11:46:19 -0400

For Immediate Release
March 27, 2013 Contact: Jeff Tittel, NJ Sierra Club, 609-558-9100

Coastal Sewer Plans Threaten Coast

Protections for our coastal areas are being targeted through county wastewater management plans.Cape May has already submitted its plan which promotes development in many of the areas that will have serious impacts to the environment.We are seeing similar plans in Atlantic and Ocean.Some of the areas just destroyed by Hurricane Sandy would be slated for more development under these plans.The plans do not address sea level rise, storm surges, or salt water intrusion.The County Plans calls for infrastructure in environmentally sensitive portions of the Pinelands and well as environmentally sensitive coastal areas.

"The DEP sewer service plans for the coastal areas promote sewers and urbanizing infrastructure in areas that are not only sensitive, but even worse, vulnerable to sea level rise.These plans do not take into consideration FEMA maps or the Rutgers mapping so we are going to be spending money to develop in high hazard areas, putting people and property at risk," said Jeff Tittel, Director, NJ Sierra Club. The Cape May peninsula is one of the most ecologically important and diverse areas not only in New Jersey but in the country.It is a major stop over for migratory birds with more than 200 species spending time in Cape May.It is also a place that has many other threatened and endangered species including birds, plants, amphibians, and reptiles.It is an area with very diverse habitat including Pinelands, coastal, Bayshore, Barrier Island, and estuary and has many unique coastal marshes and wetlands.The proposed Cape May County Wastewater Management Plan does not address the importance of the ecosystem and biodiversity of the area. The mapping does not reflect serious problems of salt water intrusion and the lowering of the aquifer.Many of the areas that are slated to be in sewer service areas are areas where we have seen serious decline in aquifer levels or even salt water intrusion.CAFRA law requires that no permit should be issued that would cause salt water intrusion, yet that is not being taken into consideration here.When you bring in sewers and the additional impervious cover and compaction of soils, you end up destroying groundwater recharge capabilities, lowering the aquifer and accelerating salt water intrusion.This will lead to a drop in base flow of the streams which will increase pollutant loadings from non-point in particular because of the additional runoff from development as well as the availability of less water for dilution which we believe will violate the Surface Water Quality Standards since many of these streams are Category 1 or drain into waters that are SE 1.We believe this plan does not reflect the Kirkwood Cohansey study and is in fact in conflict with it. None of the plans address ecological features, biodiversity or salt water intrusion.

"Under these plans we are promoting sprawl and overdevelopment without doing the basic scientific analysis of protecting wetlands, environmentally sensitive features, threatened and endangered species or if there is enough water to serve the development.In some areas the salt water intrusion line is moving faster than the traffic on the Parkway on a summer afternoon," said Jeff Tittel. These plans do not reflect the changes that are occurring with storm surges and sea level rise or address the expanded flood zones and elevations in the new FEMA maps and Rutgers studies.We should not be putting new sewer lines into areas that are vulnerable to storm surges and sea level rise.Most importantly that would mean putting people in harm's way risking life and property.We also believe based on the Governor's Emergency Order adopting the FEMA maps into Flood Hazard Area regulations those areas should be removed from sewer service. The Water Quality Plans themselves should be put on hold until the FEMA maps are updated and those vulnerable areas are removed from future wastewater service. The Water Quality Management Plans should include adaptation and mitigation for sea level rise.Especially as sea level rise will contribute to further salt water intrusion and that must be considered in the updated county plans.We have already seen freshwater wetlands turn brackish in Cape May.

"The Governor's order on elevation is only on rebuilding, not new development.Along these coastal areas while some are elevating or facing high insurance rates, developers can get away with building whatever they want, wherever they want even if it is in flood prone areas," *said Jeff Tittel*. Pinelands villages and towns should be removed from the Cape May Future Wastewater Service Areas and not included in other county plans.These areas do not have the infrastructure to support this development.Bringing in the infrastructure is inconsistent with the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan and will promote growth in inappropriate areas.

"In these maps the Pinelands and environmental sensitive areas are being targeted.They are not using science, they are using political science to give away our coast to development interests.It will lead to more sprawl and overdevelopment and putting people at risk," said Jeff Tittel. The Sierra Club has designated Cape May and the Delaware Bayshore as one of the 50 most threatened places in the United States due to development pressures on the unique and environmentally sensitive ecosystems.The Cape May County Wastewater Management Plan must not be used as a tool to accelerate sprawl and overdevelopment and cause serious impacts to the ecosystem and the natural system that protects the Cape from flooding and storm surge. The Economic Development Act S2583 (Lesniak) would**even provide taxpayer subsidies for these inappropriate developments in the Pinelands and along our coast.This bill could promote growth in areas that were just destroyed by storm surge, putting money and property at risk.This financing could be used for eminent domain and to gentrify the coast to kick out middle class families and build high end luxury housing.This bill will provide funding through tax payer subsidies for new developments proposed in sensitive areas.This bill hurts development in appropriate areas by subsidizing growth in rural areas, taking away jobs and resources from our cities and existing communities.

"Between expanding sewer service areas, the State Strategic Plan designating growth areas and now the Economic Development Act will subsidize development and infrastructure in these areas.It is a one-two-three punch to promote development in some of the last remaining open space areas in New Jersey and in the middle of the Pinelands Preservation Area,"said Jeff Tittel.

Kate Millsaps
Conservation Program Coordinator
NJ Chapter of the Sierra Club
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Received on 2013-04-11 08:46:19

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